Oh gosh… I simultaneously love and hate this question…
I don’t know what to tell you as far as what “people” or “librarians” consider to be must-reads but I can tell you what I have enjoyed and books that I can unabashedly recommend to someone who wants a well-round, well-written literary experience. I’ll go through it genre by genre so it’s nice and organized (notice my librarian is showing here).
I am a children’s librarian so I read a ton of YA, middle grade and children’s books, so that is going to influence my recommendations, I read adult too, but it’s sparse.
END OF WARNING****
- Literary Fiction: Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskill etc.
- General Fiction: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
- Crime/Mystery/Thrillers/Suspense: Anything by Agatha Christie, because she’s the mother of modern mystery and because she’s just plain brilliant. Start with her Tommy and Tuppence books.
- Fantasy: The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis is my official recommendation but of course everyone should read Lord of the Rings. If you’re looking for something that’s not a classic try the author Brandon Sanderson. Also Howl’s Moving Castle is a favorite.
- Historical Fiction:To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee is one of my favorite books, I know every says it’s amazing and blah blah blah but really… it’s amazing. Read it. Also The Watsons Go to Birmingham 1963 is excellent So is The Witch of Blackbird Pond. Also The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. Also The Scarlet Pimpernel Books. Okay I’ll shut up now. (I just really like Historical Fiction)
- Humor: The Princess Bride by William Goldman. Yes, I know, everyone has seen the movie, but I promise you, if you like the movie you’ll LOVE the book.
- Offbeat or Quirky: Anything by P.G. Wodehouse. There’s nothing a little Jeeves and Wooster can’t lighten up, plus the British humor is adorable.
- Religious and Inspirational: Dinner With a Perfect Stranger and Day With a Perfect Stranger by David Gregory. Blue Like Jazz is also a personal favorite, and one of the only non-fiction books I’ve read and really liked. Also I don’t know if this is Inspirational or Historical Fiction, but The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare is one of my all-time favorites too.
- Science Fiction: ….this is the part where I confess that I don’t really read much Sci-Fi. Unless you count the Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians books, which are more fantasy. I’ve heard really good things about the new book Redshirts by John Scaliz though, and I have that on hold for me at the library! (OH AND CINDER BY MARISSA MEYER IS AAAAMMMMAAAZZZIIINNNGGG, and it’s kinda sci-fi, so let’s count that)
- Short Story Collections: I can’t remember the exact title of the collection but I remember really loving a collection of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short stories. There was also a collection of L.M. Montgomery (author of Anne of Green Gables) that I liked. Also Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling is excellent.
- Chick Lit: Usually when I read chick lit it’s for the fluff and then I promptly forget it. But I can remember liking a couple I’ve read in the past year such as Austenland by Shannon Hale and The Statistical Probability of Love at First by Jennifer E. Smith.
- Children’s: (Remember I warned you about this)The Ordinary Princess by M.M. Kaye, (seriously, every little girl should read this book) The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard Atwater, Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine (and pretty much anything by her), The Homer Price books by Robert McCloskey, Everything by Lois Lowry, ditto for Trenton Lee Stewart, and there’s always the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew books, which I still adore as an adult. (There are more, many more, but I shall restrain myself)
- Picture Books: The Library by Sarah Stewart (and all of her other books),The Story of Ferdinand, Blueberries for Sal, Billy and Blaze, Everything by Virgina Lee Burton, Everything by Jon Agee, Everything by Bill Peet.
- Contemporary: (I have this thing where I find it very strange to read books that are actually set in the time period that I am currently living, I love me some Dystopian and I can’t get enough Historical Fiction but as far as contemporary… I read it some but I can’t remember ever really adoring any of it…) I do like Ally Carter’s books though, although those are EXTREMELY fluffy.
- Romance: Well… Jane Austen is of course pretty amazing, although I GREATLY dislike it when people call her books “just romance” they’re more than just romance, but at the same time their also my favorite romantic books.
- Young Adult: YOU. YES. YOU. YOU NEED TO READ THE ATTOLIA BOOKS BY MEGAN WHALEN TURNER. TRUST ME, YOU WON’T REGRET IT. Also everything by Shannon Hale. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (I’m a Nerdfighter, I can’t help it)
- Westerns/Graphic Novels/Military and Espionage/Horror/Action/Adventure: Okay so these are genres I don’t traditionally read. It’s not that I really have anything against them (except maybe horror, not my cup o’ tea); I just haven’t read enough of any of them to find a favorite. I like books that have action and adventure but I just haven’t read a lot in that particular genre. Sorry.
- Non-Fiction: Everything by A.J. Jacobs because that man is hilarious. Also as I mentioned earlier, I really enjoyed Blue Like Jazz.
In case you were all just desperate for book recommendations from me… here you go! I feel bad though because I’m sure I’ve forgotten some…
If anyone does read some of these PLEASE let me know I would love, love, LOVE to discuss them with you!
If all of my fangirling about Brandon Sanderson’s books isn’t enough, even Lydia, A PARA LIBRARIAN recommends him. SO GO READ HIS BOOKS.